pperseverence, prayer, presence, priorities, Self Care, sin, Spiritual Dryness, Spiritual Health, Spiritual Warfare, Time, Try?

“Got to pray just to make it today”

If prayer is the most powerful thing we can do as human beings, in fact by is an instinctive response, yet why is it something we all struggle to do?

It is said if you want to make your congregation feel guilty “talk about prayer”.

we all know we should do it, but probably none of us does it as much as we should, or even as we would like.

we claim to be too busy, but in reality that is about priorities, we can always make time, but the truth is we don’t always.

-Made more ironic by the fact that when we actually are able to pray, it often feels good, and I often end up asking myself “why don’t I do this more often?”

The illusion of to busy, or too tired, or a distraction there are so many things that just pull us away for a few seconds, and we never get around to doing that important thing of actually praying.

Intending to pray is not actually the same as praying.

Then as I began to think more about prayer, not only is it hard sometimes to do, we need to make the effort, grasp the moment and maybe even do that unfashionable word of self discipline/Spiritual discipline, to challenge ourselves to do that which we know we should.

Yet I wonder too, how often we don’t pray because we are comfortable and the urgency or necessity to pray doesn’t really grab us, we think we’ll be okay and our comfortable western lives often cushion us to forget our dependence on God.

Even theological truths of lost eternity or human compassion don’t always force us to our knees until God has our hearts fully, and paradoxically, if we don’t pray we never give God our hearts or let him have ours.

I think the real reason the Church in the west is failing is actually because Christians aren’t praying. God says “You have not because you ask not”. Jesus talks about us being like “salt”, the idea is to make us thirty for God, and yet too much of the Church seems comfortable and complacent.

I think too, we struggle to pray because of fear and lack of faith, we fear disappointment, we fear getting our hopes raised -even sometimes we fear God answering our prayer. I remember that terrified moment when I felt “wow, God is actually real” as he answers prayer shocks and shakes us from our complacency.

The pain too of seemingly unanswered prayer, when heaven seems to be silent, and times of suffering and confusion can cause us to struggle too, and ask where are you God.

Too often we think that in the Christian life we will always get a charmed life and always have a parking space, where in reality it is tough, confusing and painful.

Often too our own sense of guilt, apathy, sin, pride can all keep us away from God’s loving arms, these times when perhaps it is easier to run away from God is the exact time we need to instead run to him.

For me, one of the best ways to keep me praying has been personal accountability, over the last 20ish years -sometimes more regularly than others- I have had some great guys who I have met up with too pray, and without that companionship on the journey I don’t think I’d have made it this far.

Also, I need to be reminded that prayer works, that God answers, my soul needs to HEAR the stories of peoples encounters with God, or prayers answered and God speaking. we need these stories to spur us on. Yet we also need to TELL those stories too when God meets and speaks to us, answers our prayers, we need to share it too.

So, the challenge for us all is let’s not just talk about prayer, as though it is a good thing to do.

Let us not even intend to do it.

Let us be people that actually pray.

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Encouarge, Endurance, faithfulness, Intentional, inter-dependance, Journey, Life Together, Ministry, Mission, Partnership, presence, Self Care, Spiritual Health, Strength

Running Mates…

Yesterday I met up with my old prayer triplet from college, most weeks we would meet up, and chat and pray for each other and all that’s going on in our lives, and since college we have kept on meeting up (so I guess we’re on our 13th year!).

It is good to share with other people who are running a similar race to you, to remind you that the gospel and the Kingdom is best served lived out and proclaimed faithfully day in and day out alongside real people who don’t yet know Jesus.

we need friends that will encourage and inspire us.

we need people that help us stay focused on Jesus, we need people to help lift us up when we fall, and support us when our confidence gets knocked (and sometimes our confidence gets knocked in him too). we need others to keep us on track.

I have been working in various Churches and Christian organisations now for 20 years, and as I look back God has placed some truly wonderful people around me at various stages of my journey. we need one another. The Christian life can be a lonely one and we need those people to spur us on, to encourage us to keep going, to run the extra mile, to reach for the prize, to not quit but go on for the gold.

we need friends to pick us up too when we fall down, to support us when it is tough.

we also need friends to be honest with us, sometimes (and this needs to be the right people in the right context) be brutally honest.

we need to at times “confess your sins to one another so you maybe healed”, and I know from experience that I find being vulnerable difficult and the acute shame when I’ve messed up is wonderfully relieved when shared with a brother in Christ.

It takes courage to be vulnerable, I remember in Poole I was in a lads prayer group and we’d been meeting for a while, and then one of the guys admitted that he’d been struggling with lustful thoughts, and all of us admitted we did too. Yet none of us had been brave enough to say this, and we were in an accountability group.

Later when I was at college I discovered one of my theological heroes, Dietrich Bonhoffer, who talked about two fellowships “the fellowship of the righteous” and the “fellowship of sinners”, the first the fellowship of the righteous where we all pretend to be fine, sorted and stiff upper lip. whereas the fellowship of the sinners, is being honest about the struggles and the strains of our walk with Jesus.

It is so easy to let one another off the hook and keep everything nice and superficially pleasant, but then we don’t grow in our faith, we get stuck and stagnate, and don’t become all that Christ wants us to be.

It feels scary and risky admitting the things we struggle with, and I can’t guarantee that every Christian grouping will respond well or appropriately when we share, because when we share it challenges them too, and as people we know that going deeper is good for us, but being shallow is less costly and painful.

Yet God rejoices when Christian communities go deeper.

If Churches are not changing lives than why are we opening our doors?

we need to be people that have one another’s backs, and hold one another in prayer “because your enemy, the devil, wanders around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour”.

It is a tragedy that in our individualistic, consumerist and complacent culture that sadly has crept into the Church that we want people to have our backs and pray for us, but are we doing that for someone else.

A great question is “have you got a mentor?” but it should be followed by the question “and who are you mentoring”.

If I ever get to be on an interview panel for a Christian job one of the questions I’d ask is who are you accountable too, how regularly do you see them, and how ruthlessly honest are you?

we are called to bring the best out in one another, but that does mean challenge and sometimes conflict. I love the verse “iron sharpens iron as one person sharpens another” but I am reminded that when iron sharpens iron there are often sparks that fly off and it can be perilous.

If someone asks you to pray for them as they go into a tricky situation for them, not only pray for them, but check up and see how they got on, and if they have asked to be accountable then be full of love and grace but seek to bring light and truth into situations.

The problem is all this sounds good in theory, but to put it in place isn’t easy, and then to set the level that actually gets a real and authentic honesty is hard, and also trust takes time to be built up too.

Yet this is what I feel Church ought to look like.

I remember talking about my time working in rehab and seeing how people were so honest with each other, how they were ruthlessly blunt too with their questions and also wonderfully loving and gracious -and saw peoples lives changed and transformed.

Too often I think we think of discipleship as being able to regurgitate Bible verses (and it is good to know scripture) but actually what we want and long to see in our own lives and the lives of our Church family is real, lasting, deep change at the core of our being, that we become healed, restored and shaped into all that God wants us to be. Sounded more spiritual has some benefit but it cannot be at the cost of the true business of the Church which is Kingdom transformation.

we need one another, and they need us. The Africans have a proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”, and I think that is true spiritually too, it takes a village to raise a follower of Christ, we need one another to be all that Christ wants us to be.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is how can we be real, honest and vulnerable?

Are we brave and courageous to seek the help and support of others?

People say “I don’t need to go to Church to be a Christian” firstly we don’t go too Church we are the Church, but the truth is that people need us, and we need them, and God has placed other people around us as a gift, a wonderful resource to bless us, and us them.

So, lets gather our running mates, and keep on running together, discovering that running in a team helps make us faster and travel further and more quickly than we could do on our own.

“let us not forsake meeting together, but let us spur one another on towards love and good deeds, ever more as we see that day approaching”.

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Authenticity, Discipleship, incarnation, Spiritual Health

Discipleship 2: louder.

“I can’t hear a word you are saying, your life is shouting too loud!” Anon.

This quote I find immensely challenging, I don’t want to be responsible for people not hearing about Jesus, I don’t want who I am to get in the way of the greatest message on earth being heard.

Yet there is a lot of truth in this quote, for me, who said it matters as much -if not more than what they said.

when David Cameron, the multi-millionaire Prime-Minister whose tenure saw the rich get richer and the poor get poorer talk about “all being in this together” it sounds different to when someone like Mother Theresa who gave up everything to live amongst the worlds poorest in Calcutta, talks about sharing her life with those in poverty, we hear a different message. Their lives speak louder.

I have been working for Churches for 20 years now, I have worked for some amazing preachers and various Churchy people but I can’t remember much of the great talks and studies I listened too, but I do remember them as people and how they made me feel.

I remember too their lives, whether I saw Christ in them, whether their life challenged and inspired me in my walk with Jesus.

Often it is the funniest bits that speak the loudest, I saw a supervisor have a row with his wife, and then come back and apologies to her afterwards, and I was so challenged by his keen-ness to put things right, really challenged me.

Another time, seeing the same placement supervisor, praying with tears in his eyes before a reasonably difficult PCC meeting, again deeply challenged me.

Another time, I ‘busted’ the Team Rector here cleaning the toilets after an event, rather than tell the cleaner off, he knelt down and scrubbed… Yet there are people who aspire to leadership who I’ve never seen roll up their sleeves and wash/dry up.

I’ve also seen emails, or over heard bits of phone-calls, or seen behaviour in meetings, or seen colleagues rip into each other which if I’m honest has left me thinking a bit less of them.

I know too there have been times when I’ve known I’ve not always acted very Christ-like too, I know there are certain situations and if I’m really honest people that do manage to push my buttons. I want to be the type of person where Christ is seen in me, but too often I know that the me in me can become to visible too often.

You see what we are really like, and how we behave really matters, what you do matters much more than what you say you do.

You see I believe discipleship is ‘caught rather than taught’.

I want to hang out with Christ-like people, I’m not into putting people on pedestals but the truth is we do need role models, and probably when we think of our Christian life, there are those people along the way who have shaped/fashioned/developed and grown us in our walk with Christ.

“Iron sharpens Iron as one person sharpens another” we are called to journey together and to be a community that gets the best from each other, pulls us up, when too often communities can do the opposite and drag us down.

The Christian faith needs to be seen and experienced with flesh on it, lived out in real life, it’s got to work on Monday morning not just sound great on Sunday night.

I used to hear the phrase “don’t look at me, look at Jesus” and there is truth in that, but if people can’t see Jesus they might look at you to get an idea.

The Apostle Paul says many uncomfortable things, one of which was “follow me, whilst I follow Christ”, he knew that if he was trying to live his life following Jesus, then people would watch him and emulate him, and so he wanted to be a good example.

Sometimes too, knowing that people are watching you can spur us on, I know as a dad that my daughter watches how I treat people, and I’ve told her it is rude to ignore people and one day I tried to avoid a big issue seller, and she spotted and challenged me, now I always speak or acknowledge them for two reasons, 1) it is the right thing to do and Jesus wants us to treat everyone with dignity 2) I don’t want Hope to see me ignoring anyone ever again.

So, I’m not knocking Bible-studies, blogs, books and I’m all for preaching and teaching but primarily our main work is not spent with our head in a commentary and concordance, nor is it about what or where our theology degree (if we have one) came from, but actually the greatest and toughest work is not saying the words, but in the day in day out strive and struggle to be an authentic follower of Jesus all the time and in all situations.

I’ll close with the quote that challenges me deeply every-time I hear it: “The Greatest cause of Atheism in this country is Christians who confess Christ with their lips but deny him by their lifestyle, that is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable”.

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Authenticity, Busyness, Counselling, Depression, Life styles, Spiritual Health, Spirituality

Doctor, Doctor -Can you Make it all Okay?

Again, possibly this might be a rather personal blog, but one which I hope might bless and encourage those who read it.

As many of you know I am a bit of an “Everything or Nothing” kind of guy, and sometimes I am quite driven, and try and be conscientious, I long to see more of God’s Kingdom break in and try and seek to serve God and those I minister to faithfully. I admit I don’t always get it right, but I do try.

Also, I’ve blogged about being a Christian with depression and about going to counselling, I would want to urge anyone who might be feeling they struggle with depression, or think that they might need some counselling to do the brave and the right thing, and maybe chat to your doctor, or book yourself some sessions with a Christian Counsellor (most clergy should be able to hook you up with someone, although there maybe a bit of a wait).

Yet more recently I have been challenged about two thoughts, self care and taking personal responsibility.

Talking with the counsellor when work was really stressful, and he asked “why don’t you get to the Doctor and get signed off?”

Yet as conversations continued, it is very easy to come to medics and ‘other professionals’ or people we put on pedestals and expect them to “fix us”.

If I had been signed off for a couple of weeks, it would be nice, but after a couple of weeks, would anything have changed?

I wouldn’t feel bad for cancelling a meeting if I said “Dr’s orders”, rather than simply saying “No” to something.

If I got signed onto ‘reduced hours’ that wouldn’t really do anything either as actually I normally manage (or fail to manage) my own dairy.

Yet too often we look to someone else to make it all okay.

Actually there is a lot of this in the Gospel, looking not at ourselves for Salvation and rescue but from Christ.

Yet, sometimes God, or another human being, doesn’t burst into our situation and wave a magic wand, sometimes God asks us ourselves to take responsibility for our situation and to change it.

Sometimes God leaves the ball in our court.

It is easy then to revert to a position of a victim, or perhaps a prisoner, when God has placed all we need for a new future within us.

I am really struck by John’s account of the healing of the man by the Pool at Bethsaida, Jesus asks him “Do you want to be healed?” -he’s sat there supposedly wanting healing, but to actually be healed and learn a new life and a new identity not as the lame man who sits begging beside the pool, was for him a challenge.

I believe in many situations God himself has given us the tools to change our circumstances ourselves. The power is in our hands and our lives, through God’s Spirit within us. His Spirit within us is greater than he that is in the world, and is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.

So, instead of going to someone else, personally thinking about self care, God’s call not just to be a good minister but also a good husband and father, good son and grandson, good nephew and uncle, good friend, neighbour and colleague.

Busy is a choice.

Taking time out, especially for retreat times and being with God, is not an optional extra for indulgent Christians, but actually part of God’s call to be a human being, loved because of who we are not because of what we do.

I have been chewing over the phrase about “seeking first the Kingdom of God” and God’s Kingdom’s call is for the whole person, not just the more overtly and obviously Christian bit.

Jesus says that his “Yoke is easy and his burden is light”, which makes me ask are the burdens I carry not of God? Are they self imposed? Am I trying to do them in my own strength?

A book I’ve flicked through is called “Driven Beyond the Call”, the title is very thought provoking are we driven beyond what God is calling us to do.

My friend Andy Schuman was talking about leading a spirit-led life and he joked about the phrase “God’s not doing it so could you do it Vicar!”

-Are we trying to push doors open when God is saying “not yet”?

-Or faithfully carrying on with what we maybe should have laid down?

Perhaps my busyness is due to my own drivers?

Perhaps there is a need to be needed?

Perhaps I don’t like saying “No” to people?

If I’m honest, sometimes I feel guilty about taking time off, feel as though I am being self indulgent, but often this is a false guilt, a guilt that robs us both of our peace and our joy.

A story I love is the story of Elijah who sees God break-through on Mount Carmel, and ends up exhausted in a slump in a cave, and God makes him fall asleep and gives him breakfast.

Mark Rich once said “sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is sleep”, often when we are tired and exhausted we look upon the world with bleary grey eyes, and we become more and more depressed.

Often busyness is actually an illusion or state of mind. Often we rush around and we miss the critical thing God is doing, which is the last thing I want to do.

A great thing to give up this Lent is busyness.

Perhaps God is calling us to look at our world with him, with refreshed eyes.

Philip Yancey says “there is nothing we can do to make God love us anymore, and nothing we can do to make God love us any less”.

Discovering “Who I am when I am not busy?” for me feels like a terrifying question to ask myself. Perhaps that’s a question you might ask yourself too?

One of the songs which moves me deeply is the song by Matt Redman: When the Music Fades:

Which talks of the hush of a busy world, a stripping back, and a silencing of all the noise and discovering afresh God’s goodness and awesome love.

In fact the Church, Soul Survivor Watford, had become so well known for its worship music that they stopped all musical worship and just sought God without lights, smoke machines, PA systems and amps, guitars and full bands… For the worship leaders if was incredibly painful, challenging their whole identity and contribution, but in doing this they came through this dessert time much deeper, here is what Matt Redman wrote…

“When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come, longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart”

Yet in coming to Christ, as we really are, without the noise, work and busyness, we discover something much deeper about ourselves and also about God.

“You search much deeper within, the way things appear you are looking into my heart”

God calls us all to “Be Still and know that I am God”.

God calls us all to ‘come and lay our burdens down gladly at his feet’, James tells us to “cast our burdens onto the Lord because he cares for us”.

So, to conclude, perhaps this Lent isn’t about whether or not we have another chocolate biscuit but rather we encounter God in a new and deep way, leaving the noise and busyness aside, and taking the responsibility to give ourselves the space and freedom to just be before our heavenly father who loves us.

So, my challenge for Lent is to learn afresh what it means to simply “BE”.

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hope, Pain, Spiritual Health, Spirituality

Glitter in the Ash.

I’m a bit of touch sometimes!

I saw on Facebook today about Churches in the US putting glitter in the Ash as a symbol of their support of LGBT Community.

As a bit of an aside, I’m not sure why sparkly and LGBT are put together, seems a bit of a stereotype or caricature which doesn’t feel helpful? -but as a straight bloke I’m not wanting to tell another culture what it should (or shouldn’t) use as its symbols.

I began to think a bit deeper about the whole idea of Glitter and Ash.

Ash Wednesday is a time when we focus is on our sinfulness, our brokenness and our mortality, maybe in an superficial, individualistic and materialistic culture this service is incredibly counter cultural.

The phrase “Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust” is very much part of our national conscientiousness as part of the funeral service of burial after the coffin is lowered down into the grave.

In this Ashing ritual we say “remember that you are but dust and to dust you will return”, something profound and shocking about the starkness of these words, the certainty that we will all someday die.

This subject is something of a taboo, in a world where we can talk about Religion, Politics and Sex as much as we like, we find that death is one of the few subjects which remains something as a society we struggle to deal with.

We live in a world obsessed by youth, beauty and vitality and reminder of death and decay is profoundly challenging.

Death makes us think about life.

What are we building in life?

What will remain when we have gone?

Have we in our lives built with Gold, Silver or Costly stones or have built with that which is perishable that will be burned up as dross… So much of what we think of as important -even in our Churches- has no lasting eternal value.

Sometimes we need to be confronted with tough and challenging truths, such as our own mortality, yet, I believe that this is only half the story, for the Christian death is not the final word.

Scripture reminds us that death does not have the final word “where O death is your sting?”

We do have the pain of death, we are in a world that is fallen, we are people who are broken, and yet we are not without Hope.

Hope glistens like diamonds in the dust (as described by Jonni Erekson Tada)

I don’t think glitter in the ash trivialises the ceremony but rather is a corrective, just as the ash is biodegradable the glitter isn’t, for the Christian the hope of Christ is steadfast and certain, stronger than the grave.

We are not defined by our fallen-ness, although we are fallen people, but the cross say we are also people made Holy and declared righteousness.

We may die, but we will also live forever.

Light cannot be put out by darkness.

Even in the darkest of situation, even in the bleakest moments, the glory of God is able to break in, often easily missed as we sadly too often focus the brokenness, rather than the glistening glimpses of the Kingdom.

Justin Welby talks movingly about the death of his daughter, and although clearly incredibly painful, he say that in the midst of his pain he sensed the love of Christ.

Corrie Ten Boom talks of her horrific time in a concentration camp and yet even in one of the most hellish places on earth she still saw with the eyes of faith signs of the Kingdom of God at work.

Too often we fail to talk seriously about the challenges of life, and pain, death and judgement, we don’t talk enough of fallen-ness or brokenness. Yet today I feel as we talk about such things we need to talk too about resurrection, healing, freedom, forgiveness, life, restoration, redemption and joy.

Today is not a day for despair.

That as we journey to the cross of Christ, and although we don’t want to rush to quickly past the cross, we know that this is not the end -but the beginning- of the story we are and remain people of the resurrection.

That said, our baptism speaks of dying to self, of our past being crucified with Christ, dead to our old ways of life in sin, but in Baptism we rise from the water symbolising both our death and our rebirth.

In our world, we see much darkness all around us, and I worry that sometimes Ash Wednesday Services reinforce our brokenness and our mortality in a crushing way, yet perhaps without trivialising the deep and profound truth of sin, death and judgement we also hint at freedom and forgiveness, resurrection, rescue and redemption.

So, I’d say put the glitter into the pile of ash, remind the world that not only do we embrace the painful truths of the human condition, we also have something that is not biodegradable but eternal, something wonderful that gleams even when everything looks bleak.

That ultimately the last word and the eternal word is not a word of despair but one of goodness and hope.

The first and the last word is Jesus.

And although the truth of Jesus can be deeply challenging to our world view and painful to our pride, he remains eternally and incorruptibly good news for all.

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Discipleship, Godliness, Spiritual Health

Gorging at the Table.

At the prayer room we have had some exciting words for the city come out this week, one word we had was “my people starve for lack of knowledge” which seems a crazy prophetic word as Christians have books galore, blogs, conferences, sermons and messages online but the problem is that we are just “gorging at the table” the Church in the West is spiritual Obese, the call is to turn the spiritual food we have in so much abundance into fuel.

Over-feeding causes us to become lethargic, often we see people who are wonderful “arm chair generals” they know it all, they can quote everyone from Kris Vallaton to Pope Francis and scatter their language with biblical quotations like linguistic croutons  and yet the problem is that we just feast and feast.

God calling us I believe not just to gorge at the table, but to turn our food in to fuel.

To dream again, and then get out bed and live it out.

“Awake O sleeper and rise from your slumbers”.

The phrase dream again, kept on coming to us in the prayer room, maybe we are lapping up other peoples’ dreams but they don’t satisfy because they are not Gods vision for us ourselves.

 A great quote that my friend Rev. Jackie Davies heard was that for too long the Church has been “waiting on a move of God” where Christ is saying “I am calling you to be the move of God”. It is that paradigm shift of moving from waiting to being.

Ghandi issued the challenge to “be the change you want to see”.

I was having a coffee with my friend Harry the other day and he said “we don’t need another course, Christians know what they should be doing, the issue is them actually doing it”.

The problem too, is our teachers are great at delivering sermons, I’ve delivered a few in my time too, but does our inspiring sermons lead to our changed lives and to other peoples changed lives, is the problem the lack of teaching or rather the problem of discipleship -actually doing it!

We were reminded too, of Lyn Green, who I believe is actually the Baptist “archbishop” who talked of 2016 being a year of “beacons of prayer”, and now 2017 being “beacons of hope” where people move from praying in their closets in their private space, to proclaiming in the public space, prayer is the fire that drives the engine.

God has given us all we need for life and Godliness, we already have the tools we need for mission and transformation, often snacking at the table, is delaying tactics -unable to speak because we are too busy chewing- keeping us from doing what we are actually called to do.

We probably know the stuff, and although teaching is good and important, the Christian faith isn’t just to feed our own heads but rather to transform this world for Christ.

So, let’s see 2017 being a year of the Church getting in shape, getting to be match fit, putting what we know into practice, letting our food become our fuel, as we leave the comfort of our nice warm cosy churches and living rooms, and return to the frontlines God has called us on.

Lunchtime is over, it’s now time to get to work.

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Discipleship, Godliness, Mission Shaped Church, paradigm shift, perspectives, Spiritual Health

Paradigm Shift.

Its a phrase that I read everywhere, and I used to think it was just one of those pretentious words that get glued onto new things by people wanting to sound intelligent, that was until I looked up what it meant!

Here is a definition: “A fundamental change in approach or underlying assumption”, in Phil Potters excellent ‘Pioneering a new future’ he talks of this ‘Paradigm Shift’ being like a swimmer being given a snorkel and goggles, -the swimmer sees the sea, the shore, the boat and the sky- but the snorkeler sees all that is under the ocean, their location is the same but the view is entirely different.

Vision is fundamental to what we do, “where there is no Vision the people perish”, yet the question actually is whose vision are we following, ours or Christ’s?

Do see where he is leading for the next step, often a step of faith and always a step out of out comfort zone and security.

In the Gospels Jesus heals a blind man who recovers his sight in two stages, the first his vision is unclear, before being restored completely.

It is easy to imagine this guy being pleased at having partial vision restored, yet Jesus plan was to completely open his eyes.

I believe that this miraculous story can also be a parable to the modern day Church, sadly we can become spiritually blind when we take our eyes off Christ, yet Christ wants to restore our vision but we often settle for seeing less than Christ wants us to see.

We need our vision transformed by Jesus, not just partially healed.

Wondering too if sometimes our expectations, experiences, history, disappointments and our egos  blurs our vision.

To see things with Christ’s eyes, see things as Christ sees them, ought to be the ambition of us all who follow Jesus, he saw not things as they were but as they could be.

Seeing God’s plan, his new way rather than simply second hand revelation and conventional wisdom, doing what we have always done. David saw God’s vision for defeating Goliath with a sling shot rather than the bulky over-sized armour of King Saul.

Yet to many of us are trying to fight a Goliath shaped battle in debilitating Armour from a past generation, rather than asking if this is something he is still calling us to do?

Often our vision is smaller and more timid that I believe God wants to give us rather the vision his vision is huge and audacious, as if it a small vision achievable with our own resources where is the need for faith? Faith John Wimber reminded us is “spelled R-I-S-K”.

Yet revelation and vision from Christ is scary, it shakes the status quo, it pushes boundaries, defies expectations and stretches and strengths our faith and often means us laying down and surrendering our preferences and understandings. “If we always do what we have always done, we will get what we always have”…

I believe God is saying “I have seen your vision, now do you want to see my vision?”

God says “Behold I am doing a new thing” and yet too often we are munching on yesterdays stale manna.

I am a fan of the recent Church of England’s Report “Mission Shaped Church” but realise we have tried to turn this around to Church Shaped Mission, lowering the challenge and moving the goal posts closer to a more comfortable and achievable game.

We forget that God’s plan is bigger than simply his Church and our programmes and ideas within that, rather God’s plan is for the whole world. Rowan Williams famously said “It is not the Church who has the mission of God, but rather the Missionary God who has the Church”.

God can’t be placed in a box, the curtain ripped from top to bottom proves that the Spirit of God is uncontainable.

So, let us pray as we begin 2017, to expect the unexpected, to think big and look at the world with God’s eyes, through the eyes of Christ, praying for new and restored vision for us both as individuals and corporately as Church. Looking with bold eyes, not for a small God stuffed into a box of our expectations and understanding, but rather with to see “what God is doing in world and joining” remembering that our God exceeds our wildest imagination and can “do more than we ask or think”.

Let us see things with the fresh eyes of faith.

 

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